During inside free play, we noticed the children beginning to talk a lot about cats. This stretched from pretending to be cats themselves, to caring for cats in itself.
We wanted to help the children reach their deepest explorations and jumped in to help provide them with the tools to do this.
We decided since the children were pretending to be cats, it deemed fitting to have some cat costumes. After spending some time looking around, we couldn’t find any. Because of this, we decided to provide the children with a variety of materials in order for them to make cat ears – black paper, and pipe cleaners. We also dug up some black face paint, and gave the children black noses upon request. As educators, we wondered if the children’s interest was of a bigger emerging interest – Pets.
On another day, we provided the children with different animals that could be deemed appropriate as pets, along with pet bowls. It wasn’t long before the children gravitated over to the area, using the loose parts in our house kitchen to fill up the pet bowls and “feed” their animals.
“Look! The turtle laid eggs! – Ellie
“Mushrooms for him to eat!” – Jiayan
The children also talked about the animals “sleeping”, so naturally our next step was to provide a pet bed. This bed was used to tuck the animals in when they were “tired”. Some of the children would even read them bed time stories!
Emergent Curriculum focuses much on the educator’s observations to provide meaningful learning experiences for the children, based on their interests. Children’s interests may change, and develop at any given moment in time. As the children’s play continued over the course of weeks we continued to add different elements to their play. These elements included, but were not limited to small world play, animal track painting – looking at the differences between our own hand and animal tracks, puzzles, books and much more!
“They’re hiding from the rain!” – Caitlyn
“They don’t like the rain” – Clara
This seemed to spark an even deeper interest amongst the children, where they began to talk about the animals they had at home. As pets are often a valued member of our families, we asked our children’s families to bring in pictures of animals they had at home, as well as providing pictures of our own individual pets at home. After seeing the pictures displayed, this is what the children had to say…
“I really like dogs” – Jiayan
“I don’t like dogs, I only like cats” – Ellie
“I have a dog dog, it doesn’t eat” – Clara
“I have a real dog. Her name is Coco” – Chantelle
This helped provide the children with a realism of our exploration.
Days after our pictures were hung, a frequent question was asked by not one, but many of the children.
“Miss Sam, can I come to your house and see your cute puppy?” – Clara
“Me too, me too!” – Many children shouted
For us, it was pretty obvious that 20 children were not going to be able to come over and get to witness that of Luna’s home life (Miss Sam’s dog). We also knew that the children desperately wanted that real-life exposure, and this would benefit them immensely! We foster children learning social emotional skills, and helping children do this can be challenging. Children are born naturally egocentric, focusing primarily on themselves. When learning and caring about animals, children are paying attention to something outside themselves, helping to develop empathy.
So, after days of waiting, Luna finally make her appearance.
“Why Luna scared?” – Clara
“She is scared”– Connor
“Sorry we scared you Luna”– Clara
“I know what makes her scared! If I tickle her with my hair” – Constance
“Haha, she is so fluffy! – Clara
“Too cute. She is too cute. My dog is too cute”. – Caitlyn
“Isn’t it cute guys?” – Chantelle
So, what makes pets so appealing to children?
Children often are inclined to animals, and feel an essential connection with them. Whether it be their cute little faces, their playful energy, or a magical mysteriousness about them, children are mesmerized. Often children can relate to the animal’s innocence, and vulnerableness. Much like pets, children depend on us for survival. Whatever the reason, the result is pure happiness.
With Chinese New Year, and Valentine’s Day fast approaching we wonder if the children’s interest will continue or may these events trigger a new interest?
Until next time,
Sam and Erin